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Unwrapping the Tentacles of Hate

By Steve Nelson

My wife had been growing increasingly distant. One day she looked at me and said, "I still love you, but I m not in love with you." I was clueless when it came to analyzing the health of our relationship, but even I understood this statement. Our marriage was coming to ruin.

Over the next weeks and months, I did everything I could think of to save our marriage—going to counseling, working to understand the issues, trying to talk things through—but it was too late. By the time I realized how bad things were it was already over. She left.

Desperate and shattered, I longed for healing. "I'm sorry I hurt you," my wife would say, and I would think, Then take the knife out of my chest.

Every time the phone rang, I hoped it was her. When the doorbell chimed, my heart leapt in anticipation. When a car pulled up, I ran to the window. But it was never her, and before I knew it, the divorce was final.

On top of the emotional pain of being rejected by someone I loved, I dealt with feelings of shame, and like I had a big "D" hanging around my neck. No one in my family was divorced—not even anyone in my church. I wondered what people thought. He must be abusive. I bet he had an affair. Real or imagined, I felt their cold stares.

I don't know if I went through the classic five stages of grief, but I definitely went through the second one—anger.

Thoughts of revenge soon consumed the majority of my thinking—things too terrible to write. As dark as I became, I still could not think of a way to exact as much pain as she caused me.

As a Christian, I knew better. I tried to read the Bible, but it had become simply words on a page to me. My prayers were cold. I asked my pastor about forgiveness, and I tried to follow his suggestions, but the tentacles of hate were wrapped too tightly around my heart. I was dying spiritually.

Eventually, I read a story in the Bible. In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus told about a servant who owed a king millions of dollars. To pay for this debt the servant and his family were going to be sold into slavery. When the servant

begged for mercy, the king canceled the debt and let him go.

The servant left the king and went out to find a man who owed him a few dollars and grabbed him around the neck and demanded repayment. Eventually, he had the man thrown in prison.

When the king heard about this he became upset and said, "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?"

When I first read this story I thought, That guy's a jerk! How can the servant be so ruthless when he himself had been forgiven so great a debt?

Then I thought about it from the servant's perspective. He probably couldn't see anything wrong with his actions.

After all, the other guy did still owe him the money. Just because the king had forgiven him didn't mean he had to turn around and forgive someone else.

I could see how the servant was completely in the wrong, but I could also see how he felt justified in his own eyes.

Of course, I found myself in exactly the same situation. God had forgiven me of all my sins—lies and lusts, murderous thoughts, apathetic disinterest in God, and trying to get my needs met by everyone but Him. And yet I wanted to exact vengeance on someone who was also a broken sinner just like me. The situation with the king and the servant was exactly the same as the situation with the King and me. When I focused on my hurt I felt justified in my anger, but when I thought about the cross, I felt humbled and even merciful.

God did not forgive me because I deserved forgiveness. He forgave me because I needed it and because He is forgiving. I needed to do the same thing with my ex. I could not forgive her because she deserved it, but because she needed it, just like I needed it from God.

This passage revolutionized my life. I made a conscience effort to only think about things in light of God s perspective and not my own hurt. Over time I learned to let it go and I found healing, restoration, and peace. I hope that you can find the same in your life.

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